Raymond Felton

Thunder Re-Sign Raymond Felton

JULY 12: The Thunder have officially re-signed Felton, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 3: The Thunder have agreed to terms with Raymond Felton, who will return to Oklahoma City for the 2018/19 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Felton will ink a one-year, minimum salary deal, per Wojnarowski.

Felton, 34, served as Russell Westbrook‘s primary backup at the point in 2017/18, and the Thunder liked his performance enough to bring him back for another year. Felton appeared in all 82 games for OKC, averaging 6.9 PPG and 2.5 APG with a .406/.352/.818 shooting line.

Felton’s return doesn’t come as a real surprise, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who notes (via Twitter) that the veteran point guard recently participated in a five-on-five scrimmage as if he was still on the team when the Thunder brought in some free agents for a workout.

With Felton set to receive another minimum salary contract, his new deal pushes the Thunder’s total projected bill for their 2018/19 roster above $300MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Oklahoma City is expected to make cost-cutting moves at some point, but for now they’re carrying about $150MM in salary and another $150MM in projected tax penalties, with new agreements for Paul George, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, and Felton taken into account.

Hornets Notes: Monk, FA Targets, Coaching Staff

A disappointing 2017/18 put the Hornets in an awkward position, staffed with enough talent to compete for one of the East’s final playoff spots, yet financially compelled to blow things up and start fresh. This season stands to be different. In a recent interview with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, newly appointed head coach James Borrego discusses his vision for the club heading forward.

The biggest change heading into 2018/19 is Borrego’s willingness to incorporate 2017 pick Malik Monk heavily in the team’s rotation. Whereas previous head coach Steve Clifford opted to play veterans over youth, Borrego sees Monk as “major player for the team” with the potential to be an elite shooter.

Borrego also notes that it’s a priority of the Hornets to add a ballhandler that can serve as the primary backup point guard to Kemba Walker.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are in a unique position with a unique superstar and this upcoming summer will play a major role in how that ultimately plays out. Unsurprisingly, the team’s short-term fate depends on where Paul George signs and that could very well depend on where LeBron James signs.

With a committed George, the Thunder boast one of the league’s most intriguing cores and a front office with a rich history of landing major assets. Without him, it’s not so much of a stretch to picture the club back in the lottery for the first time since 2015.

Carmelo Anthony, PF, 34 (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $124MM deal in 2014
In less than a year, Anthony went from being a coveted veteran star to a radioactive presence with an albatross contract. The 33-year-old has an early termination option for 2018/19 but isn’t about to wave goodbye to the $28MM season he’s been eyeing up since he signed for it back in 2014. Anthony will be back in Oklahoma City next season and has already said that he has no desire to come off the bench. Godspeed, Thunder fans.

Corey Brewer, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Thunder added Brewer down the stretch as a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson. The perimeter defender not only subbed in admirably for Roberson, but carved out a role in the team’s rotation heading forward should he decide to return. Brewer is coming off of a comfortable $24MM deal signed in 2015, so don’t expect him to chase the biggest offer he can find if it looks like the Thunder will be able to remain competitive. That said, the club will need to offer more than the peanuts it got him for at the tail end of 2017/18.

Nick Collison, PF, 37 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
For the past 15 years, Collison has been a part of the Thunder franchise and there’s always seemed to be a mutual respect between he and the organization. While his days as a key rotation piece are in the rearview mirror, there’s no denying that his presence in the locker room has had a positive impact on the team. The big man hasn’t made a public decision regarding retirement at this point but it may be more likely than not. If Collison does decide to play in 2018/19, expect it to be announced well into free agency after the team’s other dominoes have fallen.

Raymond Felton, PG, 34 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Few would argue that there will be a long list of teams fighting to sign Felton this summer but it’s hard to consider his lone season in Oklahoma City anything less than a success. Felton proved that he can be an effective, cheap bit player for the Thunder, as evidenced by the 6.9 points and 2.5 assists per game he posted in just 16.6 minutes of action. Had he not performed as well as he did, there’s no guarantee he’d even land another full-time gig.

Paul George, SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $92MM deal in 2014
While his first season in Oklahoma City could have gone better from a team perspective, George did little to obfuscate his case for a max contract. It seems inevitable that the star will head west to the Lakers but let’s take the guy at his word if he says he’s at least interested in the notion of returning to the Thunder. The franchise would be well equipped for the next half decade if they could lock George in with Westbrook and Steven Adams, but will that be enough to sway the California native? Wherever he goes, he figures to be earning the max allowable.

Jerami Grant, PF, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $4MM deal in 2014
Grant was a solid and intriguing depth piece for the Thunder this season, but may be one of the players most impacted by the team’s tight finances. The former second-round pick will see interest from other teams this summer and while OKC could go over the cap to retain him, doing so would have serious luxury tax implications.

Josh Huestis, PF, 26 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2015
Despite world-class athleticism, Huestis hasn’t firmly established himself with the Thunder in three seasons. That being said, he saw consistent action for OKC in 2017/18 in limited minutes. Given that the team will have so much of its payroll tied up in a handful of players in 2018/19 and beyond, the unrestricted free agent could have some appeal as a dirt-cheap option already familiar with the system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Notes: Anthony, George, Collison, Donovan

Scratch the idea of Carmelo Anthony accepting a reserve role if he decides to return to the Thunder next season. The veteran forward emphatically rejected the idea during today’s exit interviews, tweets ESPN’s Royce Young.

“I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” Anthony responded when asked about the possibility. “So that’s out of the question.”

Anthony has a player option for next season worth nearly $28MM that he is considered likely to exercise because he’ll have difficulty getting that amount in free agency. After averaging a career-low 32.1 minutes in his first season in Oklahoma City and sitting for extended stretches in the playoffs, there was speculation that he might be might be transitioned into a bench role for 2018/19, but today’s comments make it clear he wouldn’t be a willing participant.

There’s more from the Thunder’s exit interviews:

  • Paul George addressed his impending free agency again today, saying that playing at home in Los Angeles won’t be the “only option” when he hits the open market (Twitter link). George is considered a lock to opt out of his $20.7MM salary for next season and has long been rumored to have a desire to join the Lakers. George had an All-Star season during his first year in OKC, but his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage from the floor all declined from last season with the Pacers.
  • Veteran big man Nick Collison, who has been with the franchise for his entire 14-year career, said, “I think I’ve decided,” when asked about his NBA future, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). However, the 37-year-old added, “Today’s not the time to make any of those decisions final.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan provided a brief answer when asked if he expects to be back with the team next season (Twitter link). “Let me say I’m excited about the organization,” he replied. “I love working with [GM] Sam [Presti], the people that are here. I haven’t given any thought to that. My total focus is how do we get better and improve.” Donovan still has two seasons remaining on the five-year contract he signed when he was hired in 2015, but the Thunder have suffered first-round playoff eliminations in the past two seasons.
  • Free agent guard Raymond Felton, who played for the veteran’s minimum this season, said he wants to return to the Thunder (Twitter link). “I don’t know what my future may hold,” the 33-year-old told reporters. “I would love to be back.”

Northwest Notes: D. Johnson, Felton, James, Millsap

Rookie center Dakari Johnson is making a case to stay in the Thunder rotation once Steven Adams returns from injury, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The 48th pick in the 2015 draft, Johnson saw his first significant NBA playing time Friday and responded with nine points in 23 minutes in a win over the Clippers.

Johnson earned a spot on the G League All-Rookie team in 2015-16 and the All-League team last year, but hasn’t gotten a shot at the NBA until this season. His early-season play is attracting the attention of coaches and teammates. “I think going forward it’s something huge for us,” said Paul George. “When we don’t have Steven on the floor, to rely on Dakari to step in and just give Steven a break and a breather at times, I think that’s all Coach is looking for.”

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Raymond Felton‘s steadying effect on the Thunder bench has been a bright spot in a disappointing start to the season, notes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The veteran point guard signed with Oklahoma City for the veterans’ minimum over the summer and is now on his seventh team since entering the league in 2005. “I think the glue guy to that group has really been Raymond,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “I think having veteran leadership back there from him at least allows me to communicate, and then he’s so good at managing the game, that regardless of the personnel that’s out there he can do a really terrific job of getting everybody where they need to be.”
  • The Timberwolves aren’t surprised by the success of Suns point guard Mike James, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Minnesota considered signing the 27-year-old before he agreed to a two-way contract with Phoenix in July.
  • Free agent addition Paul Millsap jokes that finally “knowing the plays” has led to the improvement in the Nuggets’ offense, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Millsap, who signed with Denver in July after four years in Atlanta, rates his current comfort level with the team’s approach at seven out of 10. “It’s a relief,” he said. “Your mind’s not all over the place. You’re not guessing or thinking. It’s second nature. You get out there and just play basketball. I dreamed of getting to this place, where I can just get out there and just play. I’m pretty much there.”

Northwest Notes: Gibson, Felton, OKC, Blazers

Outside shooting is one potential area of concern for the Timberwolves heading into the 2017/18 season, as many of the team’s major offseason additions, including Jimmy Butler, aren’t exactly marksmen from three-point range. However, as Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune outlines, the Wolves may end up getting some shooting from an unlikely source, with Taj Gibson – who has made four career three-pointers – working to extend his range.

“He worked on it all summer,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau after Gibson made a pair of threes in the Timberwolves’ preseason opener. “He always had a pretty good corner jump shot from 17 feet. He has stretched it out. As long as he works on it and he’s comfortable shooting it, I’m good with it.”

Thibodeau went out and signed the former Bull this offseason because he valued Gibson’s selflessness and toughness, but if the veteran big man can develop a reliable outside shot, it would give the Timberwolves a much-needed boost.

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • Given the Thunder‘s struggles last season when Russell Westbrook wasn’t on the court, the impact of Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton signing shouldn’t be overlooked, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. As Horne notes, the Thunder are expected to stagger Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, meaning Felton should have some help, but the veteran point guard has taken ownership of the team’s second unit.
  • In a separate piece for The Oklahoman, Horne examines the 15th spot on the Thunder‘s roster. The club currently has 13 players on fully guaranteed salaries, with Jerami Grant set to make the roster too. That leaves one opening for a player like Semaj Christon or Isaiah Canaan, but with multiple players capable of handling the ball, the Thunder may decide they don’t need another point guard and opt to enter the season with that 15th spot open, writes Horne.
  • While this year’s Trail Blazers‘ roster looks very similar to last year’s squad, a pair of positions in the starting lineup are up for grabs, with the club attempting to determine its rotation at the forward spots. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian takes a closer look.

Thunder Sign Raymond Felton To One-Year Deal

JULY 10th, 10:45pm: Felton has officially signed with the club, according to a team press release.

JULY 7th, 4:58pm: The Thunder have agreed to a one-year deal with veteran point guard Raymond Felton, Chris Haynes of ESPN tweets. The 32-year-old suited up for the Clippers in 2016/17.

The journeyman playmaker has bounced around over the course of the past decade, suiting up for seven teams since 2009/10. This year, on the heels of a 6.7 point-per-game campaign, he’ll slot in behind Russell Westbrook on Oklahoma City’s depth chart.

The Thunder had been actively seeking support for when Westbrook took breathers, unsatisfied with what rookie point guard Semaj Christon was able to provide in his first season with the club.

Felton’s track record has left much to be desired over the past few seasons but there’s hope that in the right situation he can be a serviceable reserve. In five playoff games for the Clippers in 2015/16, including four emergency starts, he averaged 15.0 points and 4.6 assists per game.

Oklahoma City has already used its taxpayer mid-level exception, so Felton figures to get a minimum salary deal.

Clippers Notes: Griffin, Paul, Redick

Blake Griffin, who was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason with a toe injury, can become a free agent this summer, but he may not have many teams lining up to give him a long-term max deal, Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer contends. O’Connor details Griffin’s injury history, which includes several ailments on each of his legs, and believes it will cause rival teams to be cautious when making the big man a multi-year offer in free agency. Griffin could always elect not to activate his ETO and stay with the Clippers, though the $21.4MM he would receive in the 2017/18 season is less than the annual salary he’s likely to receive on the open market.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The window to trade Griffin closed over a season ago and the Clippers missed their chance at getting value for him, O’Connor notes in the same piece. The scribe argues that if GM Doc Rivers had pulled the trigger years ago, the team would have much more depth today and players such as Paul Pierce and Raymond Felton wouldn’t be soaking up significant playoff minutes.
  • Chris Paul is expected to re-sign with the Clippers, but O’Connor (same piece) wonders if the team should be worried about Paul finding a more attractive option in free agency. He speculates that the Spurs could be a threat should the franchise open up the necessary cap space to give Paul a maximum-salary contract.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today (video link) isn’t sure owner Steve Ballmer is going to sign off on paying luxury tax payments again for a team that doesn’t have a clear path at a championship. In addition to Paul and Griffin searching for max deals this summer, J.J. Redick will be a free agent and Amick estimates that the Duke product will warrant a deal that pays him $18MM per year.

Austin Rivers Likely Sidelined For Regular Season

The Clippers anticipate losing Austin Rivers for the rest of the regular season due to a left hamstring strain, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN reports.

“I think it’s a little more serious [than initially believed],” coach Doc Rivers told reporters before Saturday’s game. When asked of Austin’s prospects for the postseason, Doc replied “We don’t know. I would say it’s 50-50.”

Per Arnovitz, Rivers’ injury occurred during the second quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Wizards. Having already locked up a playoff spot, the decision to potentially shut down Rivers for the season appears to be a cautious one. Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford will likely split minutes at point guard in Rivers’ absence.

Austin addressed his injury with Bill Oram of the O.C. Register yesterday, voicing frustration at the prospect of being sidelined until the playoffs.

“This is the time of year, if anytime, I want to be healthy. … At least it’s not during the playoffs,” Rivers said. “People are always looking for something wrong with our team instead of looking for what’s right. Why don’t you look at how many injuries we’ve had and still been able to hold down the ship in the West, and still be a top-five seed in the West without Blake and Chris for a big chunk of games?”

Clippers Notes: Griffin, Rivers, Paul, Mavericks

The Clippers are hoping Blake Griffin will be able to play during their upcoming road trip, according to Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. The star forward has been sidelined since undergoing surgery in December to clear some “loose bodies” in his right knee. Griffin underwent stress tests on the knee Thursday and is expected to participate in some contact work today. The team is hoping he will be medically cleared for game action during the five-game trip, which extends through February 1st.

There’s more Clippers news out of Los Angeles:

  • Coach Doc Rivers suspected a problem with Griffin’s knee when he noticed the All-Star forward wasn’t getting past defenders as easily as he normally does. Rivers told Rowan Kavner of NBA.com that Griffin is starting to regain that ability again. “He looks great,” the coach said. “I don’t think the timeframe has changed. I know he feels wonderful. He looks like he’s explosive again.”
  • Rivers is planning to use several players to make up for the loss of Chris Paul, who will be out six to eight weeks following thumb surgery, Woike writes in a separate story. That means increased minutes for Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick and possibly Austin Rivers. “It’s still next man up,” Doc Rivers said. “You take the top two players from any team, it makes it harder, but I don’t agree that it means that you struggle. You lose two guys, there’s nothing you can do about it. I think our guys have handled it well.”
  • The Mavericks have a surplus of point guards who might interest the Clippers, suggests Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas could offer Deron Williams, who will be a free agent after this season, Devin Harris, who is signed for one more year at a little more than $4.4MM, or J.J. Barea, who has two seasons left at about $3.9MM and $3.7MM.